We’re at a very exciting time in marketing. There’s an old saying: “Half the ad budget is wasted, but we don’t know which half.” Of course, that’s not as true as it once was. Now, marketing has technology it’s a very powerful tool for understanding what is resonating with customers and calculating an ROI.
I recently saw a story of Lee Clow, the advertising legend behind the 1997 Apple spot, "Here’s to the Crazy Ones." He coined the term “marketing arts” (instead of advertising). This got me thinking, what’s the difference between “advertising” and “marketing arts?”
Advertising, to me, really speaks to sticking a branded message in the faces of passive viewers over and, over and, over again, until they can’t help but recall the brand, the message, the icons, the jingle, and so on. The modern equivalent of this is “preroll” and display ads that are showing up in our social newsfeeds and online videos.
Marketing arts is about something much more. It’s about engagement, experience, creating something of value for the viewer. The digital era is allowing marketers to break free of the 30-second spot and create an endless array of possible creative engagements. So, why not take advantage of it? Rather than sticking something in front of the passive viewer, these engagements are much more attractive.
However, while this creates opportunities for one-to-one marketing management like never before, the idea that marketers no longer broadcast, but rather engage, personalized marketing is actually a bit of a fallacy.
I’m struggling to understand why I’m still bombarded with display ads for stuff I don’t care about. The problem is the scale of executing on the one-to-one marketing proposition is actually beyond imagination. But scattershot preroll is not the solution either. So, of course, we have to ask ourselves how do marketers become of value to individual members of the audience? This is a critical question, and you need to start by understanding two things.
Number one, products and services play a very important role in consumers’ lives and therefor, secondly, marketers have an important role to play in the consumers’ lives. You see, if everything that we purchase creates meaning in our lives, then marketers have a responsibility, a very serious one. They’re involved in our lives. It’s important that marketers truly understand us as consumers, and set themselves against the task of enriching our lives with greater meaning.
This leads to the question of how do you build meaningful engagement with customers through personalized marketing? The key is that narratives attract customers. B2C should take a page out of the B2B marketing handbook: content is king. Crafting a narrative that attracts your target customer, rather than trying to throw yourself in front of them online, is really the key to success. The best examples of a narrative that attracts customers, rather than trying to intercept them, is from KLM, the Dutch airline. If you’ve ever left something on an airplane, you’ve probably had the experience of dealing with indifferent airline crew or airport staff. Well, KLM has introduced a sniffer dog, and the dog’s job, when someone leaves something on the airplane, is to run through the airport with the item, using its nose to find the owner and return it to them. What a wonderful way to have your lost items returned to you! It’s a wonderfully entertaining piece of film that you can find on YouTube. As a viewer, I can’t even name another Dutch airline, but I now know the name KLM, and that’s what it’s all about. It attracted me because it is an entertaining story. It created value in my day.
Around Christmas time, West Jet, for several years now, has created the miracle of Christmas program. In 2013, if you were in an airport with a kiosk form West Jet, you could give a wish list to Santa. Lots of people, adults and kids, went up to the video terminal and told Santa what they wanted. While the flight was in transit, West Jet staff would purchased the items, wrapped them up, then send them down the baggage carousel, just as the people were collecting their luggage. For an industry that doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to caring about customers, that’s a pretty awesome way of changing the narrative, and of course it’s very sharable content!
So, that leads to of course, the question of how do you build such a great narrative? Well, it’s very simple. It comes down to deeply understanding your customers and how they use or struggle with your category, regardless of the product or service. This can be very complex, but with the right guidance, anyone can navigate this. The real skill is identifying new narratives that resolve tensions or align to their values, such that customers feel connected and they feel joy. The narrative can invoke pride, inspire them to explore, or have a social impact. Doing this will help you to define the real purpose of your business. A purpose that will attract individuals to your brand message, rather than overwhelming them with less relevant messages.